(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Manitoba Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse today joined Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller and others at a press conference announcing $20 billion for compensation for First Nations children and families impacted by the discriminatory funding practices of the federal First Nations Child and Family Services (FNCFS) program and its improper implementation of Jordan’s Principle, as well as an additional $19.807 billion to overhaul the program.
“This historic settlement, of $40 billion dollars, has been a long time coming,” said AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse today in Ottawa. “First Nations from across Canada have had to work very hard for this day. Since we launched the case before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal over a decade ago, and prior, the Assembly of First Nations has pressed the federal government to provide redress for monumental wrongs against First Nations children, wrongs fuelled by an inherently biased system.” She added that discriminatory funding and other decisions has led to a massive over-apprehension of First Nations children into the child welfare system in every province and territory.
In a total settlement package valued at $40 billion, the AFN, the Government of Canada and other parties signed two Agreements-in-Principle on December 31, 2021. These agreements come after more than a decade of First Nations advocacy, and a precedent setting win at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in 2016, appeals by the federal government to that compensation order, a class action lawsuit filed by the AFN in 2020 and just over one year of negotiations.
“Every day for decades, First Nations children, some even newborns, have been ripped from their families and communities, and many denied medical services and other supports when they’ve needed them, all at the hands of a federal child welfare program that should have protected them,” said Regional Chief Woodhouse. “This wasn’t and isn’t about parenting. It’s about poverty, and First Nations children being removed from their families and communities instead of being provided food, clothing or shelter. We have a long way to go to address the poverty in our nations and no amount of money will ever be the ‘right amount’, nor will it bring back a childhood lost, but today is about acknowledgement, about being seen and heard. Today is about a plan for the future with First Nations defining and determining a path forward grounded in our rights and the common goal to have our children succeed.”
The first of two Agreements-in-Principle proposes a total settlement of $20 billion in compensation to First Nations children and families impacted by discrimination through the FNCFS program and the improper implementation of Jordan’s Principle. The compensation acknowledges that First Nations children were unnecessarily apprehended from their parents and communities and suffered harms that include abuse, the loss of language, loss of culture and loss of connection to their families and homelands. Compensation will also be made available to certain individuals who were subjected to a delay, denial or disruption of services, supports, treatment and products as a result of the federal government’s narrow application of Jordan’s Principle.
The second Agreement-in-Principle commits the Government of Canada to $19.807 billion to reform the current FNCFS program and includes a framework to correct the many discriminatory aspects of the FNCFS program and the implementation of Jordan’s Principle.
“The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled almost six years ago now that the current program provides incentive for child welfare agencies to apprehend children,” said AFN Regional Chief Woodhouse. “Before the Tribunal’s involvement, a child welfare agency was not reimbursed for expenses incurred to provide services unless the child is removed from their home and placed into state care. Meanwhile, the federal government’s narrow implementation of Jordan’s Principle has resulted in First Nations children being denied medical and other services which, in some cases, forced parents to place their children into care. The AIP on reform is aimed at eliminating these structural problems.”
More than 200,000 First Nations children and youth who were removed from their homes and nations or denied services under Jordan’s Principle could be eligible for compensation.
Over the next few months, the AFN and the Government of Canada and others will work toward a full compensation package in a final settlement agreement that will contain details on eligibility for compensation and the application process. Work toward long-term reform will include AFN-facilitated engagement sessions that will guide negotiations to ensure the reformed program is relevant and responsive to the needs of First Nations children and families across the country.
The AFN, together with the First Nations Caring Society, filed a human rights complaint against the Government of Canada in 2007. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled in 2016 that the Government of Canada discriminated against First Nations children by underfunding First Nations child and family services on-reserves and ordered $40,000 to each First Nations child taken from their homes and placed into foster care unnecessarily. After the federal government appealed the compensation order, the AFN filed a class action lawsuit in 2020. Negotiations on a settlement have been ongoing for more than a year.
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The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations people in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.
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Assembly of First Nations